Another warm and fuzzy piece of work by your friends at the phone company:  the QWest Building at 2nd and Lenora.

15 Responses to “Wretchedness”

  1. David Sucher

    The building has been there for 20-30 years.

    But I am glad someone noticed.

    It doesn’t look like at it would take too much to give it a decent streetfront i.e. just take out the decorative panels to create shops.

    I wonder if the phone company still needs that building to be so secure? i.e. has telephone technology changed enough to allow for retail at sidewalk level?

  2. Tom


  3. JoshMahar

    You know, I actually think this is kind of a beautiful building. Its just that the street level is very hostile to pedestrians.

    I think if someone went in and redid the bottom floor, keeping the decorative panels and displaying them within, this could be a really beautiful space. You could even throw a few penthouses on top that highlight the brutalist architecture with a modern twist.

  4. Finishtag

    Wretched? Seriously?

    Yes, the pedestrian experience is very bad, but if solid walls were a given, at least it is beautiful AND tactile. The brickwork is exquisite.

  5. old timer

    A thorough cleaning of the surfaces and the addition of some
    plantings in containers would go a long way to making this a much better picture.
    Of course, that would require regular and perpetual maintenance, city life being what it is.

  6. MikeP

    At least it has some windows, as opposed to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/33_Thomas_Street

  7. Lee

    I took a “government regulation of business” class in the econ dept during my undergraduate schooling. Several authors made convincing cases that the regulatory structure for phone companies during most of the 20th century made heavy capital investment a lucrative activity. This in turn affected what and how they built. Government regulatory policy (and technical requirements), not architectural aesthetics are responsible for the general appearance of this building. That’s another reason why these sorts of buildings look pretty much the same all over the USA.

  8. Lance

    I’m kinda interested to know what technical and regulatory policy requirements defined the architecture? All I know is (I think anyway) a bunch of old switchboards are back in there (maybe they’re upgraded now?)

    I can’t help but think this looks like some radical Chicago-school building. I agree, the brickwork is awesome.

  9. Keith

    i actually think the biggest problem is those ticky-tacky glass canopies that lead folks to believe they are welcome at the base of this citadel. i say celebrate the building’s standoffishness for now; if and when the switchgear is no longer needed because everyone is on wireless, it can be that new jail nobody wants in their neighborhood.

  10. Gloomy Gus

    An ex’s uncle was a muckity-muck at the phone company back in the day this was being planned and built. He once told me the phone company’s original plan was literally a windowless, featureless, smooth sided box. The City had to threaten all kinds of murder to get the facing changed to brick, the windows put in, the detail along the blank streetfront.

    And as for the pedestrian, er, hangout aspect: one permanent aspect of Belltown is its function as a neighborhood of last resort for people who’ve fallen through the social safety net we’ve so happily dismantled. I like that there’s nothing going on that keeps down-and-outers from enjoying a little shelter from the rain on this one stupid part of one stupid block. It harms nothing except Cristalla property values. I’m left unmoved by the plight of anyone who mortgaged their way into a Blaine Weber project.

  11. Hudson

    Lance, I think this is the building you are thinking of – built to withstand a nuclear blast.

  12. dang

    @10 – I’m with you Gus. Its great that these guys have a spot to sit and keep dry and lend a bit of life to an otherwise dead street front. Since you all are talking about pedestrian un-friendly street fronts, what about other buildings in the area? What about the new Four Seasons? Does it make it okay if there are windows to view into a grade-separated and otherwise sealed building front? Or the big departments stores… think the north side of Macy’s along Stewart Street. Is this somehow better than Qwest? I find that street front far and away more offensive than the Qwest building. It completely lacks any humanistic touch, presenting an incredibly cold, defensive and insular street front. Is it really the Qwest street front that bothers you or the down-and-out that it harbors?

  13. uptown

    I see that many people hanging around the store fronts of Uptown. Doesn’t have anything to do with the building.

    Personally I like that building, some store fronts would have been nice. Better than some glass covered piece of crap.

  14. keith

    just to clarify: my post about the “welcoming” function of the glass canopies has nothing to do with the folks hanging out beneath them. i agree that belltown is indeed a magnet for these guys and that’s fine (i’d want to get out of the rain too).

    i just meant that, architecturally speaking, the canopies “invite” people to walk/linger/whatever at the base of the building, when it might be more appropriate to continue the theme of “unapproachability” all the way down to the sidewalk.

    couldn’t be any worse that it already is, and at least it would be consistent.

  15. Nate

    Um. That’s the good side. Isn’t the side facing west (you know, where views of the bay would be) almost completely windowless?

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